‘Love is love:’ P-CEP students react to The Respect for Marriage Act

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Arya Sharma

Two figures link hands in front of a gay pride flag with interlocked wedding rings touching both. December 14, 2022.

With President Biden’s signature on Tuesday night, federal legislation codifying existing protections for same-sex and interracial marriage became law. P-CEP students from all over campus celebrated the news on Wednesday.

The Respect for Marriage Act requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and federally recognizes same-sex marriages as legitimate, repealing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which formally defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

The bill passed both chambers of Congress with broad bipartisan support, with 39 House Republicans and twelve Senate Republicans joining all Congressional Democrats to pass the legislation.

“I was overjoyed when I heard the news that President Biden signed the bill. It’s a huge progressive step and it makes millions of Americans happy,” said Saumya Arora, Canton junior. “I believe the simple message Americans have been trying to communicate for so long is finally out there: love is love.”

According to a poll by Gallup, 71% of Americans support legal recognition of same-sex marriage. This marks a stark cultural shift over the past couple of decades: in 1996, that number stood at just 27%.

“[Passing the law] is just a small step for everyone to be equal,” said Brett Dorsey, Salem senior. “There shouldn’t be inequality just because of preferences. I’m glad that there’s less separation on a federal level between different people.”

I believe the simple message Americans have been trying to communicate for so long is finally out there: love is love.”

— Saumya Arora, Canton junior.

Same-sex marriage has been nationally legal since 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Obergefell v. Hodges that any state which denied same-sex couples the right to marry violated the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause.

While the issue has generally been considered settled law, it was thrown back into question when a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization stated that the court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell.”

Some critics of the law state that it doesn’t go far enough. The act does not explicitly legalize same-sex marriage: instead the law specifies that same-sex marriages must be recognized by all states across state lines. Should Obergefell be overturned, any one of the 32 states with same-sex marriage bans still on the books could once again begin to enforce bans.

“It was an important bill to be passed, but it could have been better,” said Jaspreet Kaur, Salem senior. “It’s important to protect gay and interracial marriage, but this wouldn’t have to be happening in an ideal world.”

Some students expressed uncertainty about the future of LGBTQ+ rights in America.

“Quite frankly, it’s ridiculous that we’re having this conversation at all, that a law like this is necessary to protect the right to marry whoever you love,” said Kavya Keshavamurthy, Plymouth senior. “I’m still holding my breath for June–whatever the Supreme Court decides has the potential to affect the lives of many people and could signal a dramatic regression in this political climate that could put even more rights at risk.”

Current cases on the docket, such as 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a lawsuit challenging the Colorado Anti Discrimination Act, have the potential to undo previously granted LGBTQ+ rights.

Still, other students expressed optimism about the future and what it may hold.

“This bill is just the start of what is coming for the future of this nation. Important legislation like the Equality Act still has not gone any further than the house, and these bills still need to be pressed and discussed,” said Jacob Jackson, Salem senior and co-president of the Queer Youth Committee. “There is more work to be done and we will continue the fight against injustice. This is just the beginning.”

This story was originally published on The Perspective on December 14, 2022.